Playing on Labour Day certainly agrees with Zach Collaros.
The veteran quarterback is 6-0 on the holiday weekend heading into Winnipeg’s contest Sunday night versus the Saskatchewan Roughriders at Mosaic Stadium. Collaros, 35, was 3-0 with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, 1-0 for the Riders and this weekend looks to improve to 3-0 with the Blue Bombers.
Collaros has 13 touchdown passes over those six contests with just three interceptions. He has thrown for over 300 yards three times and in 2015 registered 400 yards passing and four TDs in Hamilton’s 42-12 victory over the Toronto Argonauts.
Saskatchewan (5-5) leads the Labour Day series 37-21 and has taken 14 of the last 17 games. But the Bombers (9-2) have won the last two and a victory Sunday would not give them the season series but clinch a CFL playoff spot for a seventh straight season.
Collaros threw for 293 yards and two TDs in that contest while adding 26 rushing yards and a touchdown on three carries. Dalton Schoen, the CFL’s top rookie last year, had eight catches for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Riders starter Trevor Harris threw for 413 yards and three touchdowns and ran for a team-high 23 yards. But with both Harris and backup Mason Fine both injured, Jake Dolegala will be under centre for Saskatchewan.
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Dolegala threw three touchdown passes in Saskatchewan’s 34-29 home win over B.C. on Aug. 20 and the Riders are coming off a bye week. But the Bombers counter with a defence that’s allowed just eight TD passes all season, a CFL low.
Winnipeg comes in on a league-best five-game win streak. At times, the Bombers have looked human — falling behind 22-0 versus Edmonton before winning 38-29; edging Calgary 19-18; and giving up two pick-sixes last week before downing Montreal 47-17. But the mark of a contending team is being able to overcome its mistakes or still win even when not at its best.
The Bombers are also 6-1 within the West and 4-1 on the road. Saskatchewan is 4-3 versus division opponents and 3-2 at Mosaic Stadium.
Winnipeg leads the CFL in offensive points (29.7 per game), offensive TDs (36), net offence (390.5 yards), passing TDs (25) and most 30-plus yard completions (26). The Bombers are also second in rushing (126.2 yards) and passing (284.4 yards).
Collaros, the CFL’s outstanding player the last two years, is third overall in passing (2,538 yards) but tops in TD strikes (20). Brady Oliveira (902 yards) is the league’s top rusher while Schoen (seven TDs) and Winnipeg native Nic Demski (five TDs) and Kenny Lawler (21.4-yard average per catch over five games) anchor a solid receiving corps.
Offensively, Saskatchewan is seventh in offensive points (19.7 per game) and sixth in offensive TDs (18) but third in passing (274.4 yards) and fourth in net offence (344.1). But the Riders stand tied for sixth in sacks allowed (31) and eighth overall in rushing (87.2 yards).
The Riders’ defence is third in fewest offensive yards allowed (323) and fourth against the pass (245.4) but seventh in offensive points given up (24.1) and eighth in both sacks (24) and turnovers forced (20).
Now, Labour Day is certainly its own beast and a time when the unexpected does happen. It’s a rivalry series in the truest sense of the word and a rabid Mosaic Stadium definitely gives the home team an advantage.
But there’s a reason why Winnipeg is chasing a fourth straight Grey Cup appearance and third championship.
B.C. Lions versus Montreal Alouettes (Saturday night)
At Montreal, B.C. (7-4) has lost two straight. Starter Vernon Adams Jr. makes his first Labour Day start and faces his former team for the first time since being dealt to the Lions last year. This marks the first Labour Day game between these two teams since 2015 with the Lions holding a 7-6 edge. Cody Fajardo makes his first Labour Day start for Montreal (6-4) and fourth overall looking to improve to 2-2. Austin Mack (53 catches, league-best 828 yards, three TDs) has been stellar in his first CFL season.
Toronto Argonauts versus Hamilton Tiger-Cats (Monday afternoon)
At Hamilton, the Ticats (4-6) made this interesting with their impressive 30-13 road win over B.C. James Butler ran for 118 yards and a TD while adding three catches for 36 yards and a touchdown against his former team. However, the Ticats are 1-4 at Tim Hortons Field. Toronto (8-1) is 4-0 within the East (and 2-0 versus Ticats) and 3-1 on the road. Starter Chad Kelly is CFL’s top-rated quarterback (118.7), tied for first in rushing TDs (six), second in completion percentage (70.0) and third in TDs (13).
Calgary Stampeders versus Edmonton Elks (Monday night)
At Edmonton, don’t look now but the Elks (2-9) have won two straight with Canadian quarterback Tre Ford, who’ll make his first Labour Day start. Last week’s 30-20 win over Ottawa snapped a dubious 22-game home losing streak. This series is tied at 30-30-1. Calgary (3-8) has dropped three straight but won nine of the last 10 Labour Day contests, including 26-18 last year. CFL passing leader Jake Maier (2,785 yards) had four TD passes in last week’s 39-31 road loss in Toronto. Maier (1-1) makes a third straight Labour Day start.
Last week: 3-1.
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